When Vincent Walters bought a house in Fish Hoek, it made headlines, and he had to get permission from the government and his neighbours, letters of reference from parliamentarians and a permit that cost him R20 and a case of brandy.
Mr Walters is coloured.
In 1990, when he bought the house in Main Road, the apartheid state’s Group Areas Act was still three years from being abolished, and Mr Walters was the first person of colour to buy a property in what was then a white’s-only suburb.
He was born in District Six and matriculated from Athlone High School in 1966, but, as a boy, he spent his weekends and holidays exploring the beaches of Kalk Bay and Clovelly while visiting his grandmother, Sophia Jeftha, who worked as a changeroom attendant on Kalk Bay beach for 40 years.
Now 69, Mr Walters has always had a love-hate relationship with Kalk Bay, Clovelly and Fish Hoek – loving the areas for their beauty and his fond childhood memories but hating them as he was not wanted there due to the colour of his skin.
At the time, Mr Walters lived in Athlone with his family. He vividly remembers the day he paged through the property pages of the Cape Argus and a Fish Hoek house caught his eye.
“I still remember the headline of the ad: ‘Turn an ugly duckling into a swan,’ it read.”
The three-bedroom house was on the beach and he says it was a steal at R90 000.
“Houses in whites-only areas where cheaper than houses in non-white areas due to supply and demand.”
That night he told his wife about the house and the couple decided it made good financial sense to buy it.
A few days later, Mr Walters decided to take a walk down Main Road to see what the house looked like.
“I could see it was rundown but it had good bones.”
He met with estate agent, Jean Swartz from De Kock Estates, to view the property.
“She was a lovely person and was not at all surprised to see that I am a person of colour when I viewed the house.”
Mr Walters made an offer on the house but when the owner saw he was a man of colour, he told Mr Walters the advertised selling price was wrong. The price was R95 000. The owner also wanted a R20 000 cash deposit.
“Getting a loan was out of the question as banks would not give people of colour a loan to buy a house in a whites-only area.”
But Mr Walters made a plan. He owned a property in Athlone which he sold within a few days. But he still needed the R20 000 deposit. Then De Kock Estates came to his rescue, giving him a loan for the deposit.
But he wasn’t out of the woods yet. In order for the sale to go through, Mr Walters had to get written consent from the then Department of Local Government, Housing and Works Administration which referred his application to the then Fish Hoek Municipality and Fish Hoek Residents’ Association. He also needed written consent from two neighbours; a permit allowing him to live in the area; and letters of character reference from a white member of Parliament (Jannie Momberg) and a coloured member of Parliament (Peter Harris).
His application made headlines in the Cape TImes: “All races to settle in Fish Hoek” published November 22 1990 and “Residents asked for coloured ok” on November 13, 1990.
Mr Walters recalls the day he went to the Department of Community Development to apply for his permit. The clerk told him it cost R20.
“I was also told that the clerk drank Commando brandy and in not so many words that the application will include a case of brandy.”
So, he says, his permit cost him R128 – R20 for the permit and R108 for the case of brandy.
But despite the struggles he faced, he says he has embraced his past as it is part of who he is.
Buying the house in Fish Hoek, he says,was a sort of home-coming and cleansing for him. And today, he and his family still live in the ugly duckling on the Main Road which they have turned into a beautiful swan.